23 October 2013
Christians will be ‘wooed and booed’ by the state and the media
In the years ahead Christians in the public sphere will be caught in a paradox, being asked to do more while at the same time being pushed to the sidelines because of their beliefs.
That’s the message Dr Dave Landrum, director of advocacy at the Evangelical Alliance, brought to the European Parliament as he gave the address to the Ecumenical Prayer Breakfast.
Speaking in Strasbourg today (23 October) Dr Landrum told assembled politicians and church leaders: “The challenge facing us all, secular and religious alike is: how do we govern a diverse and fragmenting public sphere.”
The Ecumenical Prayer Breakfast takes place when the European Parliament meets in Strasbourg. It is the longest-running group in the European Parliament, having been founded in 1980.
“Simultaneously, Christians will be increasingly required by the state, and at the same time increasingly rejected by it,” Dr Landrum commented. “We will be wooed and booed by the state and the media, we will be celebrated and denigrated, lionised and demonised.”
Pointing to the work done by churches across the UK to serve their local communities Dr Landrum suggested the need for such work will only increase in coming years.
The Faith in the Community report produced by the Evangelical Alliance for Christians in Parliament found a vast range and scale of Christian activity with everything from dog training to anger management, and food banks and debt counselling to running libraries, post offices and delivering long-term programmes for local authorities.
The work is valuable and appreciated but Christian groups are also sometimes met with suspicion, ignorance and religious illiteracy. But as communities are increasingly required to take responsibility, provide leadership and find local solutions, along the lines of the European idea of subsidiarity, there will be significant opportunities for the Church.
This increased openness to work with Christian groups, and the need to do so, is coupled with the growth of the Church in the UK, especially among evangelical and Pentecostal groups.
At the same time – and this is the paradox identified by Dr Landrum in his address – there is often a tendency to want faith excluded from public life; just at the point when it is most needed and has the most to offer. Dr Landrum warns: “If we take the wrong turn, we could easily end up in a culture wars scenario similar to the US – an increasingly polarised society with a zero-sum end-game and no winners.”
Dr Landrum challenged parliamentarians and Christian leaders that the priority of the Church has to be to engage rather than walk away, to lead rather than be led, and to commit to building trust among each other for the development of a plural – not secular – public space where we can all together work for the common good.